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Who is Nikola Tesla and why companies are named after him?

How the greatest inventions of Nikola Tesla influenced the modern world and what does Elon Musk have to do with it?

On July 10, we celebrate Nikola Tesla's 165th birth anniversary, the inventor, physicist, engineer, whose discoveries contributed to the second industrial revolution.

What Nikola Tesla invented, why he was not paid for his work, how his inventions function and why they changed the world, let’s figure it out together!

In 2003, Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors. The company, named after the creator of the induction motor, multiphase AC technology. Nikola Tesla developed and patented it in 1883, giving this phenomenon a scientific description- rotating magnetic field.

Tesla electric vehicles use high-frequency microprocessors to process signals, antennas to transmit and receive radio signals, which Nikola Tesla invented as well.

Who is Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in the Croatian village of Smilyan, which was a part of the Austrian Empire back then. His father was an Orthodox priest; his mother was unschooled but highly intelligent. Training for an engineering career, he attended the Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague.

During his university years, two very important events happened: first, Tesla lost all his money in gambling and his parents had to take a loan to pay off his debt, after that he stopped gambling forever. Second, he noticed the imperfections of DC machines and thought about using alternating current in electric motors.


When you hook up wires to the terminals of a battery, charge can flow and a complete path called a circuit is formed. This flow of charge is called a current. The symbol for current is the letter I and the unit of measurement is called the ampere. The higher the current running through the wire, the more charge is flowing.

After he graduated from university, Nikola got a job as an electrical engineer at a government telegraph company in Budapest. Tesla could not bring to life his plans to create an alternating current electric motor at this company, so at the end of 1882 he moved to Edison's Continental Company in Paris.

The challenge at the new place was the construction of a power plant for the railway station in Strasbourg. In 1884, Nikola successfully finished the power plant project and was expecting a good reward, but Tesla resigned and returned to Paris as soon as he realized that he would not be paid.

The same year, the inventor moved to New York and got a position at Thomas Edison's company as a repair engineer for electric motors and DC generators.


Where did the Australian rock band AC/DC get their name from? Why, Alternating Current and Direct Current, of course! Both AC and DC describe types of current flow in a circuit. Electricity flows in two ways: either in an alternating current (AC) or in a direct current (DC). Electricity or "current" is nothing but the movement of electrons through a conductor, like a wire. The difference between AC and DC lies in the direction in which the electrons flow. In DC, the electrons flow steadily in a single direction, or "forward." In AC, electrons keep switching directions, sometimes going "forward" and then going "backward."

Edison was not interested in the young inventor's innovative ideas and, as a joke, promised Tesla $ 50,000 to improve the DC electric machine. After submitting more than twenty projects, Tesla received approval for each change, but again did not earn a cent, and immediately quit.

After the scandal, the inventor founded his own company related to electric lighting, but the scenario repeated itself. The shareholders did not pay for the completed arc lamp project and offered Tesla shares as a reward. Due to disagreements on payment, the scientist ended up on the street and was engaged in auxiliary work for six months. While digging ditches, he met the engineer and inventor A. Brown, who was able to convince his acquaintances to provide financial support to Tesla. A few months later, in April 1887, Tesla created the Tesla Electric Company, which began to develop street lighting using new arc lamps.


An arc lamp is a designation for a whole class of lamps that use an electric arc as a light source. Today this principle is used in fluorescent lamps. This is how they work: inside there is a mixture of inert gas and mercury vapor. Electric current, passing through a gaseous body inside the lamp, excites ultraviolet radiation, which hits the phosphor deposited on the lamp walls. Then the phosphor re-emits the absorbed UV radiation into visible light.

The office opened on Fifth Avenue just next to the building occupied by Edison's company, the "War of currents" began between the two inventors.

Several years later, the American industrialist George Westinghouse bought (finally, he received some money!) More than 40 patents from Tesla. Westinghouse hired the inventor as a consultant at Pittsburgh factories, where industrial prototypes of AC machines were developed. Tesla did not enjoy working there, he believed that his work interferes with the emergence of new ideas, and a year later returned to the laboratory in New York.

In 1895, a fire broke out in the laboratory and all the developments were burnt out. Tesla stated that he can easily restore his projects from memory. Nikola received an unexpected donation of $ 100,000 from The Niagara Energy Company for a new laboratory. In June 1902, Tesla moved his laboratory to Wardencliff and began building the first wireless telecommunications tower for commercial telephony and radio broadcasting across the Atlantic.

Nikola Tesla became obsessed with an idea that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly through the air at long distances – either via a series of strategically positioned towers, or hopping across a system of suspended balloons. This invention could crash down the market and provide everyone with cheap electricity, that’s why J.P. Morgan, a shareholder in the world's first Niagara hydroelectric power station and copper plants, refused further funding. By that time most of Tesla's patents have expired, which means that the payment of royalties has stopped. Serious budget cuts halted the construction of the Wardenclyff Tower. The tower was not used until 1917. Fearing that it could attract interest of German ships, the US government decided to dismantle the tower.

There is almost no information on what Tesla did after the construction of the tower. In 1937 he went out to feed the pigeons, while crossing a street was hit by a taxi. A back injury provoked pneumonia, and Tesla died in 1943.

Nikola Tesla’s inventions and how they are used today

Throughout his life, Nikola Tesla received more than 700 patents in a few different areas. For example, Tesla invented radio before Marconi and Popov and worked with X-rays before their official discovery by Wilhelm Roentgen.

Multiphase electric current


A combination of several alternating currents operating in parallel at different time periods (phases) depending on the definite time offsets of the electric power source (AC power). Multi-phase systems are useful in industry and for high efficient long distance transportation of electricity via high-voltage lines.

Multiphase electric currents are used in induction motors as well as in power lines for more economical transmission of electricity.

Radio communication and mast antenna


The antenna can operate in two modes: either as a transmitter or as a signal receiver. Transmitter and receiver antennas are often very similar in design. For example, if you're using something like a satellite phone that can send and receive a video-telephone call to any other place on Earth using space satellites, the signals you transmit and receive all pass through a single satellite dish—a special kind of antenna shaped like a bowl (and technically known as a parabolic reflector, because the dish curves in the shape of a graph called a parabola). Often, though, transmitters and receivers look very different. TV or radio broadcasting antennas are huge masts sometimes stretching hundreds of meters/feet into the air, because they have to send powerful signals over long distances. But you don't need anything that big on your TV or radio at home: a much smaller antenna will do the job fine.

Today antennas are used everywhere, from radios and cars to Wi-Fi routers, phones and 5G towers.

Fluorescent lamps

Fluorescent lamps were more efficient and quickly replaced incandescent bulbs. But progress does not stand still, and today we use LED lighting which is even more efficient.

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